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Same-sex weddings and American wrestling help revival of Leeds working men’s club

Secretary Liz Holbeck with Ian Pickup, centre, and volunteers Devon Martin and Christine Baker at Holbeck Working Men's Club

Secretary Liz Holbeck with Ian Pickup, centre, and volunteers Devon Martin and Christine Baker at Holbeck Working Men's Club

A historic working men’s club that was facing the prospect of closure is looking forward to a brighter future thanks to a mammoth volunteer effort.

Holbeck Working Men’s Club – at 137 years-old thought to be the oldest in the country – was under threat after racking up tens of thousands of pounds of debt and seeing customer numbers dwindle.

But a team of 15 unpaid volunteers and a single paid secretary have toiled hard to take the club out of the red.

And an eclectic mix of events – from a reception for two women who tied the knot in a civil partnership to American wrestling-style nights – has helped to boost the coffers,

Committee member and volunteer barman Ian Pickup said: “Things are looking good. Because we’re run by volunteers all the money is going back into the club and we’re making a profit again.

“It’s very important that the club survives. Holbeck has lost a lot over the years and it can’t afford to lose this too.”

There are now plans to bid for £500,000 of Big Lottery funding to give the club a major overhaul and secure its long-term future.

Committee members hope that major regeneration schemes that are seeing hundreds of new homes built in the area will provide a new customer base. They also want to operate the venue as a community facility for families during the day and a club at night.

Mr Pickup added: “We have to adapt to survive – to offer something for everybody. There are more houses being built and there will be a lot more people coming into the area and we have to supply something to attract those people.

“It’s such a friendly place. Everybody talks to everybody and has a good laugh.

Hopefully we’ll be here for a long time to come.”

 

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